“They raped her sister… killed her best friend. Now she must seek revenge!”
In 1984, a 42 year old New Yorker named Danny Steinmann, a guy who had previously in the early-70’s, under the alias of Danny Stone, written and directed a porno movie called “High Rise”, decided to step behind the camera to do something different.
With a screenplay, co-written by Norman Yonemoto (who?), Steinmann took to the director’s chair to shoot a picture called Savage Streets. With a slim budget of barely over a million dollars, Steinmann created a movie that focused on female empowerment and billed the film as a “battle of the sexes”. Woman versus man, good versus evil and feminism versus chauvinism were are the forefront of the film, and as clique as those things are, and were even then, the movie manages, through its colourful 80’s shots, bizarre characterisations and score, to have a certain charm about it that has helped it remain a cult favourite to this day.
The film is not a difficult one to explain, synopsis-wise. A rabble of punks, following a heated altercation with a couple of girls, finds one of the girls and proceeds to rape her. The older sister of the victim seeks revenge on the punks in question, and the savagery of a woman seeking vengeance for her sister is explored. The film then becomes a rape revenge picture, not unlike others of its type. The genre itself is a strange one, using an obviously disgusting and shocking act to create a good reason, in both the revenge seeker and the viewer’s minds, for the perpetrators to be dealt with harshly. We want to see the rapists dealt a heavy hand, we want to see them beaten and killed by the older sister.
Revenge films are a favourite sub-genre of mine, from gritty and lesser known titles like this one, to better known flicks like Death Wish, and even The Punisher and The Crow, there’s something about seeing the hand of vengeance falling, with a knife in its paw, over the throat of a scumbag that makes me smile.
Linda Blair, who plays the main protagonist here, Brenda, is cheesy and alarmingly corny in her performance, but it works here because everyone else meets, or exceeds her corny-ness with their performances too. It reminds me of films like “The Exterminator” in the way that its dialogue is cringe-worthy, the violence is acutely unrealistic and it is tremendously flawed, yet through all of these aspects it still remains likeable and watchable, and not just in the “so bad, it’s good” sort of way.
The film was heavily cut for many years, with most releases having thirteen full minutes cut out, but has since seen uncut releases in recent years, reaching its full 93 minute run-time. It is, of course, hard to see how they cut 13 minutes of the film now, but times have changed and a lot of things pass censors now that would never have been considered for release thirty years ago.
This is a must-see for fans of gritty street exploitation films and revenge movies, or even for those who enjoy 80’s cult films that ooze so much cheese you can almost smell the stilton.